Supervising the supervisors 2

January 1, 2009

Something that I do not understand, and that no one has been able to confirm or explain to me despite calls to several universities, is the difference between the different kinds of doctorates, for example a PhD, a DLitt, a DPhil, a DSc or a DBA, and so on.

When I was younger, in the 1970s, it was explained to me that a PhD means that you are basically a good researcher. If you have made a really meaningful contribution to your area of specialisation - for example, published papers or done things in addition to writing a dissertation - you would be expected to apply for and be awarded a higher-level doctorate, such as a DSc, DLitt, DPhil or equivalent.

When I tested this idea on a university registrar recently, the response was that a PhD is just like the other doctorates and "I expect it was a DLitt who told you that."

In addition, I understand that there used to be another set of doctorates awarded to people from "the colonies", who had not studied for years at the illustrious institutions awarding the degrees, so it was considered useful to differentiate between those who had attended the institutions, and those who had not.

It would be very useful if you could produce an article setting out the current situation as regards the various doctorates, their criteria of award and the differences, if any. Also, is there not some value in differentiating between the various doctorates - you might say some form of "product differentiation" in the market - with different criteria of award, expectations of outputs, and so on?

Jan Smit, Centre for Strategy and Evaluation Services.

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